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J Orthop Res. 1997 Mar;15(2):278-84.

Evaluation of the effect of joint constraints on the in situ force distribution in the anterior cruciate ligament.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The function of the anterior cruciate ligament was investigated for different conditions of kinematic constraint placed on the intact knee using a six-degree-of-freedom robotic manipulator combined with a universal force-moment sensor. To do this, the in situ forces and force distribution within the porcine anterior cruciate ligament during anterior tibial loading up to 100 N were compared at 30, 60, and 90 degrees of flexion under: (a) unconstrained, five-degree-of-freedom knee motion, and (b) constrained, one-degree-of-freedom motion (i.e., anterior translations only). The robotic/universal force-moment sensor testing system was used to both apply the specified external loading to the intact joint and measure the resulting kinematics. After tests of the intact knee were completed, all soft tissues except the anterior cruciate ligament were removed, and these motions were reproduced such that the in situ force and force distribution could be determined. No significant differences in the magnitude of in situ forces in the anterior cruciate ligament were found between the unconstrained and constrained testing conditions. In contrast, the direction of in situ force changed significantly; the force vector in the unconstrained case was more parallel with the direction of the applied tibial load. In addition, the distribution of in situ force between the anteromedial and posterolateral bundles of the ligament was nearly equal for all flexion angles for the unconstrained case, whereas the anteromedial bundle carried higher forces than the posterolateral bundle at both 60 and 90 degrees of flexion for the constrained case. This demonstrates that the constraint conditions placed on the joint have a significant effect on the apparent role of the anterior cruciate ligament. Specifically, constraining joint motion to one degree of freedom significantly alters both the direction and distribution of the in situ force in the ligament from that observed for unconstrained joint motion (five degrees of freedom). Furthermore, the changes observed in the distribution of force between the anteromedial and posterolateral bundles for different constraint conditions may help elucidate mechanisms of injury by providing new insight into the response of the anterior cruciate ligament to different types of external knee loading.

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